Arts Review, Movies
Louise Archambault, director and script
Luc Dery and Kim McCraw producers for Micro scope
Starring: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard (Gabrielle), Alexandre Landry (Martin), Melissa Desmoureaux-Poulin (Sophie), Benoit Gouin (Laurent), Isabelle Vincent (Gabrielle’s mother), Marie Gignac (Martin’s mother), Robert Charlebois (as himself)
Canada’s—or should I say Quebec’s—nominee for best foreign film at the Oscars was this film, which was produced by micro_scope’s Luc Dery and Kim McCraw. Sadly, it didn’t make the final cut, which may have been more devastating for Dery and McCraw, whose productions Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies were Oscar contenders, than for director Louise Archambault. She (and her producers) can be reassured that Gabrielle has already garnered prizes at Locarno, Namur, d’Angouleme, Gijon, Dieppe and, just this week, in Vancouver.
The genres (long-winded ones)
Drama about mentally challenged young adults; a tale of love against the odds
Gabrielle and Martin are young and in love. Plus they’re excellent singers in a choir called Les Muses de Montreal. But they have problems: Gabrielle has Williams Syndrome and Martin appears to have Down’s Syndrome.
As the film shows, they may be mentally challenged but they’re sociable and loving towards each other. Their budding romance is OK with Sophie, Gabrielle’s sophisticated and amiable sister but Martin’s mother is less pleased. She’s worried that the two will have babies or, in any case, get too serious for her son, who she feels is too fragile to handle romance and commitment.
Martin is pulled out of Les Muses just as they’re preparing for an amazing gig, backing up Quebec legendary rock singer Robert Charlebois. Will the two get back together—in time to sing with Charlebois?
The film hinges on the performance of Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who actually has Williams Syndrome. She gives an astonishing performance and is absolutely riveting in the title role. Backing her up are two terrific young actors, Alexandre Landry (who plays Martin) and Melissa Desmoureaux-Poulin (who plays Gabrielle’s sister Sophie). They’re absolutely persuasive and must have worked hard to mesh their performances with Ms. Marion-Rivard.
The writer-director of Gabrielle has done a fine job of working with Ms. Marion-Rivard. In interviews, Ms. Archambault has talked frankly about how difficult it was to cast Gabrielle in the title role; clearly quite a gamble, it certainly paid off.
Perhaps to compensate for the daringness in choosing a woman with Williams Syndrome for the lead, the story is quite simple—almost schematic. But there’s charm here—and it’s likely due to Louise Archambault.
This is a tale of young love, filled with music and mostly delightful characters. Yes, this is a relatively low budget film with French dialogue—but, hey, get over it. Gabrielle may not be in IMAX but it has a heart. Go see it.